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ISIS: The Richest Terrorists In History?46:49
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With guest host John Donvan

ISIS is the richest terrorist organization ever, with an estimated more than $1 billion in assets.  We’ll look at ISIS’ business model and how to disrupt it.

In this Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014 photo, fighters from the Free Syrian Army, left, and the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), center, join forces to fight Islamic State group militants in Kobani, Syria. (AP)
In this Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014 photo, fighters from the Free Syrian Army, left, and the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), center, join forces to fight Islamic State group militants in Kobani, Syria. (AP)

We call them terrorists they act like thugs but they are in their perverse way business people. To the Islamists overrunning Syria and Iraq and beheading hostages money matters. ISIS the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is rolling in it  thanks to the oil fields they control the extortion rackets they run and the hostages they sell for dollars. Not even Al Qaeda has that kind of cash.  It’s the group’s lifeblood so how does the US cut it off. Can it? This hour, On Point: Breaking the ISIS Bank … ways and means.
-- John Donvan

Guests

Colin Clarke, associate political scientist for the RAND Corporation.
Louise Shelley, professor in the school of policy, government and international affairs at George Mason University. Founding director of the George Mason Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center. Author of "Dirty Entanglements" and "Human Trafficking."

From The Reading List

Foreign Affiars: Blood Money: How ISIS Makes Bank -- "Oil is not ISIS’ only source of revenue. For example, when the group needed seed capital to recruit personnel and acquire military equipment to conquer the Sunni-dominated areas of Iraq, some of it came from donors in the Gulf States, who had funded the antecedents of ISIS. More recently, ISIS funding has come from the usual terrorist businesses—smuggling, kidnapping, extortion, and robberies. In one reported case, a Swedish company paid $70,000 to rescue an employee who had been taken by ISIS. And before the American journalist James Foley was beheaded, ISIS fighters demanded an exorbitant sum for his freedom, which they did not receive."

Brookings: Cutting Off ISIS' Cash Flow — "According to Cohen, ISIS’ principal source of finance is still derived from its control and sale of oil, which he assessed was still bringing in $1 million a day. Additional funds come from kidnap for ransom, extortion networks, criminal activities, and donations from external individuals, the latter being of least significance in terms of scale. In order to counter this broad base of financial incomes, Cohen explained that U.S. strategy is focused on disrupting ISIS revenue streams, restricting ISIS access to the international financial system, and targeting ISIS leaders, facilitators and supporters with sanctions."

New York TimesU.S. Strikes Cut Into ISIS Oil Revenues, Treasury Official Says — "Aside from state-sponsored actors, Mr. Cohen said the group was 'the best-funded terrorist organization we’ve confronted.' The group takes in tens of millions of dollars each month, including about $1 million a day through black-market sales of oil extracted from territory it controls, allowing it to amass wealth at an “unprecedented pace,” Mr. Cohen said."

This program aired on December 8, 2014.

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